Today, Mayor Jim Watson hosted Her Royal Highness Princess Margriet of the Netherlands and her husband, Professor Pieter van Vollenhoven, at City Hall. The day included the unveiling of a plaque for the newly renamed Princess Margriet Park, a private tour of a City of Ottawa Archives exhibit tracking the Dutch Royal Family’s connection with Ottawa, and a luncheon with veterans and residents of Dutch heritage.
In 1940, after Nazi Germany invaded the Netherlands, Queen Wilhelmina sent her heir, Crown Princess Juliana, and her two daughters to Canada. In 1943, Crown Princess Juliana gave birth to her third daughter, Princess Margriet, at the Ottawa Civic Hospital (now known as The Ottawa Hospital’s Civic Campus). The family spent five years in Ottawa and became a part of the community.
After the War, Crown Princess Juliana presented Ottawa with 100,000 tulip bulbs in gratitude for the city’s hospitality and for the important role Canadian forces played in liberating the Netherlands from Nazi occupation in 1945. To this day, the Netherlands continues to send a gift of tulip bulbs to Ottawa each year as a symbol of the ongoing friendship between the two countries. The Canadian Tulip Festival was established in 1953 to celebrate the historic gift from the Dutch Royal Family.
The City Archives exhibit, Enduring Bonds: The Story of the Dutch Royal Family in Ottawa, showcases reproductions of the Yousuf Karsh photograph series of the Dutch Royal Family, as well as a historic display outlining events during the war abroad, on the home front, and about the haven that Ottawa provided. Additionally, the Ottawa Sport Hall of Fame has a display titled The Netherlands: A Sports Nation.
During an economic development mission to the Netherlands in 2019, Mayor Watson invited Princess Margriet to visit Ottawa in 2020, to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Liberation of the Netherlands. The Mayor also proposed renaming Fairmont Park, near The Ottawa Hospital’s Civic Campus, in her honour. In October 2019, City Council approved the renaming of the park. The Princess’ visit was unfortunately delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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“Ottawa’s deep connection to the Dutch Royal Family and the shared history of our two countries is incredibly special. We share a unique bond that has only deepened over the 77 years since Canadians liberated the Netherlands during World War ll. Her Royal Highness’ presence at City Hall today marks another step forward in our collective journey as nations with a shared past, present and future.”
Ines Coppoolse, Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to Canada
“It is an honour to welcome Princess Margriet back to her birthplace to celebrate the 77th anniversary of the Liberation of the Netherlands by Canadian forces, a mission in which my father took part. Our two countries enjoy a unique friendship spanning decades, and I’m proud that we continue to build opportunities together in culture, education, tourism and economic development.”
Mayor Jim Watson